A Soldier's advice
by Darren Camp
I have witnessed death more times than I can count. I have stood face to face with death. I have had bloody fist-fights with it; the no-holds-barred kind where anything goes. After all, death doesn't play by the rules. It fights dirty. It is unfair and uncaring and shows no favoritism. All men and women are indeed equal in its eyes, and none will escape it.
Death itself can not be defeated by man. We wage war against it in obvious defiance of the inevitable. We curse it, despise it, fear it and even respect it, although admitting such respect is nearly impossible at times. We ignore it as best we can; thinking that if we don't acknowledge the truth of its inevitability, we'll somehow escape it.
The war against death and dying has an outcome that is as sure as the sun rising each morning. Whether we are one of those that remain in denial about it, or embrace the truth, the facts remain: It is appointed unto man once to die. So, why fight so strongly against something we know will eventually defeat us? It is not to win the war itself, but to win as many battles as possible.
I have no idea how many battles with death I've won. I don't want to know. Deep down, it does not feel as though I've won more than I have lost, nor does it feel the opposite. Based on those feelings, I'm going to have to estimate that I've come out even.
Even though I do not have an exact number, I can say with certainty that it is in the hundreds, maybe thousands of times that I have fought tooth and nail against death. I have sacrificed my body and my mind to fight for complete strangers. People whom I had never met until death was trying to drag them away.
I dedicated much of my life to being a good soldier in the war against death. Learning about life's microscopic intricacies, the effects of the behavior humankind has on death, and everything in-between. I have educated myself, I have trained countless hours, and I have learned from mistakes of others and myself.
Each and every battle I won, you can bet was celebrated. Yet, even as I reveled, there was always a knowing that the victory was temporary; that some time in the future, whether it was an hour later or if it was fifty years later, death would return and would win.
Now a veteran of that war, I do as other war veterans do. I reflect and ponder, and try to make sense of it all. Perhaps it is to justify the scars or to have some sense of value within my own self. Sure, there are times where bad memories prevail, causing an emotional retreat from waxing philosophical. However, I tend to arrive at the same conclusion no matter which perspective I view it from.
The conclusion reached over and over is:
I marched willingly into war against an enemy that is certain to eventually win the battle of life and death. Every single time, without prejudice or judgment, I fought as hard as I could, using the skills and knowledge I had obtained.
I did the best I could. Not with the illusion that the lives for which I fought would continue forever, but the knowing that these people would have more opportunity to make the most of life. For some, I was able to give them that chance, for others, I was not able.
Having seen the things I've seen and knowing what I know, I would only offer once piece of advice. That is, make the most of every opportunity you get to bring meaning to the life you are given, take no one for granted, and never think you're guaranteed tomorrow.